Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 2011, 14

Zdeno Chara enjoying some Slovakian cuisine out of the bowl of the Stanley Cup.
Zdeno Chara enjoying some Slovakian cuisine out of the bowl of the Stanley Cup following a press conference.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Even though his coaches suggested that basketball might be more appropriate for a 6'9" athlete, Zdeno Chara had his sights set on playing in the National Hockey League and one day winning the Stanley Cup. To help the possibilities, after he was drafted by the New York Islanders in 1996, he played a year of junior in Prince George to help acclimatize himself to the North American game.

His ascendancy was rapid. He established himself on Long Island but it was after a trade to Ottawa that Chara's true value began to emerge, not only as a blueliner, but as a leader. After signing with the Boston Bruins in 2006, his status as an elite NHLer continued to grow, with nothing cementing that fact more than leading his team to the Stanley Cup championship last June.

Zdeno Chara, his wife Tatiana and their two-year-old daughter Elliz, anxiously awaited the Stanley Cup on July 22. It had left the Czech Republic and a day with David Krejci and was being driven to the Doubletree Hilton in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

Zdeno Chara celebrating with the Stanley Cup and Norris Trophy at the Panorama Club in Trencin, Slovakia.
Zdeno Chara celebrating with the Stanley Cup and Norris Trophy at the Panorama Club in Trencin, Slovakia.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Zdeno was handed the Stanley Cup and, mimicking the moments after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed him the Cup on-ice, thrust the three-foot trophy over his head. The journalists and fans assembled burst into spontaneous applause as the Bruins captain smiled ear-to-ear. Also with him was the Norris Trophy, the award he won in 2009 as the league's best defenceman, and an award for which he has been a finalist in three of the last four years.

After answering questions at a media conference, Chara took the Stanley Cup into Opus, the elegant restaurant in the hotel. He placed it on display so guests and staff could have a look while he had lunch with his family.

Zdeno Chara and the Stanley Cup visited Trencin Zimny Arena in Trencin, Slovakia.
Zdeno Chara and the Stanley Cup visited Trencin Zimny Arena in Trencin, Slovakia.
(Howie Borrow/Hockey Hall of Fame)


Following his meal, Zdeno made a series of stops with the Cup, including a mobile phone supplier and an Audi dealership. At both locations, staff and customers were thrilled to meet Zdeno and see the trophy captured by his Bruins.

Chara, his family and the Stanley then made the hour trip to Zdeno's historic hometown of Trencin. After a drive of 120 kms (75 miles), Chara did a signing at the Panorama Club, found just below the medieval castle that serves as an amazing landmark in the city.

After a quick stop at the hotel, family and close friends gathered back at the Panorama for a private celebration dinner that concluded the captain's first day with Lord Stanley's legacy.

Day Two (July 23) began with a visit to the office of Trencin's mayor Richard Rybnicek, who welcomed the popular Chara and awarded him a proclamation of appreciation.

Zdeno Chara and the Stanley Cup making their way to Trencin Square. (Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Zdeno returned to his roots, taking the Stanley Cup to Trencin Zimny Arena where, when he was a much smaller youngster, he had honed his hockey skills. A group of youngsters was on the ice, but were only too happy to cut short a practice to meet their idol and to see the actual Stanley Cup up-close and personal. Photos were taken as an unforgettable souvenir of a special day.

Zdeno then took the Cup into the coach's room in appreciation of the men that helped him along his hockey journey.

The Cup was next displayed for visitors and sponsors at Hotel Magnus, where hundreds of pictures were taken of Zdeno and the Stanley Cup.

Zdeno is not the only elite athlete in his family. His Dad, Zdenek, competed in wrestling for Czechoslovakia at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec. Zdeno spent an hour at his father's home, placing the Cup on a table in the backyard as family, friends and neighbours stopped by to visit and congratulate the champion.

Zdeno Chara and his family along with the Stanley Cup were welcomed at Trencin Castle.
Zdeno Chara and his family along with the
Stanley Cup were welcomed at Trencin Castle.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
A quick visit with a longtime friend preceded a stop at the Chara house that allowed the entourage to catch its collective breath. Good thing, too, as what was next was rather extraordinary.

In Trencin Square, a crowd of 5,000 stood shoulder-to-shoulder to catch a glimpse of Chara and the Stanley Cup. Zdeno and the trophy arrived in a convertible that parted the assembled on its way to the stage. As the Bruins' captain hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head, Wiz Khalifa's appropriate 'Black and Yellow' boomed from massive speakers.

Zdeno took to the stage with the Stanley Cup as a band rocked out. To the astonishment of the onlookers, Zdeno grabbed the drumsticks and worked his large frame in behind the drum kit. He was excellent, keeping the beat like a metronome.

While the rationale was lost on most, a fan challenged Chara to an arm-wrestling match, which Zdeno lost, although likely on purpose. "You cheated," he laughed, but the crowd shouted as though he was the victor.

Zdeno Chara along with his wife Tatiana and their daughter Elliz sharing a moment with the Stanley Cup and Norris Trophy at the Trencin Castle.
Zdeno Chara along with his wife Tatiana and their
daughter Elliz sharing a moment with the Stanley Cup
and Norris Trophy at the Trencin Castle.
(Walt Neubrand/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Zdeno picked up a gun that shot t-shirts into the crowd and fired several volleys into the crowd that screamed and reached for the souvenir shirts.

Although there wasn't much time left, Zdeno set the Stanley Cup on a table and invited the patient fans to see the trophy and snap a picture. He sat in another area signing autographs for fans.

Any trip to Trencin is not complete until a visit has been made to the magnificent Trencin Castle. Joined by his wife and daughter, Zdeno took part in a more formal ceremony at this medieval castle. He was 'knighted' and then fired off a cannon as part of the ceremony. "I was getting a little emotional, I'm not going to lie."

Chara was visited through parts of the day by several other NHL stars, including Pavol Demitra, Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa.

Day Two had concluded when Zdeno admitted that he was a little melancholy. "I'm a little bit sad that the Stanley Cup has to leave and I won't see it again until September."

* * *

Next time we get together, instead of a photo finish, it'll be a Finnish photo! The Stanley Cup Journal will see you on Friday!

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

All Photographs are property of the Hockey Hall of Fame or Getty Images and may not be reproduced without prior written consent. For more information regarding use of our photographs please contact us.
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